England have paid tribute to Luke Cowan-Dickie for the manner in which he has become the fittest he has ever been in his career, forcing his way into the starting line-up for the second time in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations. The hooker first appeared in the championship in 2016, appearing off the bench in a win over Wales.
However, with Dylan Hartley and more recently Jamie George ranked ahead of him, the Exeter forward had been unable to merit little more than short-lived cameos off the bench until recent weeks. His selection as the England No2 against Italy last month heralded the first-ever start in the championship at the age of 27, a first Test start since Kobe in September 2019 and just his fourth start ever in his bit-part Test career.
Cowan-Dickie slipped back to the England bench for the round three match away to Wales, George retaking the starting shirt, but Jones has now gone back to the Exeter hooker for this Saturday’s game with France, a reward for what the coach has described as lifestyle changes that have given the front-rower a fresh lease of life.
“His power has really come to the fore,” explained Jones on why Cowan-Dickie is now in his thoughts as a player capable of starting regularly for England. “He is a very powerful ball-carrier, a very powerful defender. He is a strong scrummager and he is very powerful at the back of driving mauls, so he has brought all that.
“He is in the best physical condition I have ever seen him. He has made a few adjustments to his lifestyle and he is really committed to being the best player he can be. With him and Jamie, we will get a great 80 minutes out of that position.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 24, 2021
Asked if the tournament sponsor’s brew was still part of the Cowan-Dickie make-up, Jones added: “That is off the menu at the moment, and he has had a little child which I think has probably changed his approach to his life a fair bit. I don’t think I have ever seen him more focused or more obsessed with rugby. It’s a good thing to be obsessed with.”
Exeter will be pleased Cowan-Dickie has forced his way back into the starting XV for his 30th cap. Some weeks ago, in the lead-up to the England selection versus Wales that he lost out on, his club coach Rob Baxter told RugbyPass: “Whether we [Exeter] start him or whether we sub him here he has always brought massive energy, an ability to break tackles, he is a horrible person to run into if you’re an attacker.
“You talk about guys who give you momentum and stop opposition momentum, that is what he is and that is why he has been a key player for us. He just makes things happen around him. It’s very rare you don’t see good things happen around him – whether that is breaking a tackle or he manages to hold his feet and the ball gets away in an offload, he gets off the line and he shuts down an attack with a quality low chop tackle.
“That is just the kind of stuff he can bring and he is probably a better set-piece player than he gets credit for. I don’t know whether you would say it will take his game on by starting more games with England but it will give him a bit of confidence if he gets back that he is retaining that level of becoming a starter international player.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 12, 2021
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